Ever heard of Elon Musk? TED branded him a serial entrepreneur, but that’s an understatement. He is a practical visionary:
1 – the co-founder of Paypal
2 – the CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors. Their new all-electric model S has just been named by Consumer Reports as the highest rated car ever! It’s still a luxury car but it’s phase 2. Phase 3 is a mass production model. And the company has posted it’s first profit. That will keep it going.
3 – he’s involved with solar power company SolarCity
4 – and he’s the chief designer at SpaceX, a reusable rocket company. They’re already doing work for NASA and the space shuttle.
His TED talk from February this year:
CBC’s The National does a special on the current economy and how it’s being managed. It’s not what you may think. Low interest rates and a massive increase in the money supply have notable issues. Is it working? It is creating a massive increase in personal debt while hammering savers in multiple ways. Interest rates have to go up some time, which will also hammer those in debt. One adviser indicates everything is in a bubble now due to the artificial manipulation. What the piece fails to note is the profound inflationary pressure there is with a massively increased money supply. That devalues current incomes and investments and increases prices. One interviewee jokes about money under the mattress but its valuation still depends on the money supply.
Recently, I was sent links to a couple of short on-line general science and religion knowledge quizzes by Pew Research. What is particularly interesting is the detailed stats from the original study showing how well people did on specific questions, overall and so forth. You’ll see that with your results.
The Science Quiz (13 questions)
The World’s Religions Quiz (15 questions)
This article at Slate talks about it. For example, that 42% don’t know the most basic fact about global warming….
If you’ve ever looked at Kiva (microloans) but were uncertain about investing, here is a chance to try it out for free. You can make a free $25 loan contribution and see the process in action.
Bob is the author of a book about Kiva. During a journalists tour of outrageously expensive hotels around the world, he saw the poverty of the people nearby, some of whom helped build the palaces. He took his pay and invested it in Kiva. Then he went on another world tour to see the loans in action. The resulting book, The International Bank of Bob, is a funny and moving story of the ensuing adventure. And a profound look at real life in some of the more challenging spots on earth.
In its day, the Weather Channel was a big change. A TV channel devoted just to weather, before we had many dedicated stations. Then weather sites began to show up on the web, including the Weather Channel’s own. They give live, anywhere weather.
A few years ago, I began using the AniWeather browser plug-in. It displays a very customizable temperature and weather readout with optional links to various graphical maps. Click the temperature and you get a pop-up with a 5 day forecast + links to other cities and towns you choose. It’s America-centric but was especially useful when I was in the US Midwest – it’s weather is far more variable and changeable than here in the Pacific Northwest.
Today I was checking out a new site, Forecast.io.* It shows local current conditions with an animated map of global, regional or local conditions. The animation runs a time-scale as well. Below this is a weekly forecast with relative temperatures. I quite like this feature as you can tell at a glance where the temperature range is going.
Click Add in the dark bar near the top to add your location to the menu list. I tried adding 2 small towns, 1 in Europe and 1 in the US and both were found in moments. Interestingly, the URL in the address bar shows the digital longitude and latitude, if you’re looking for that.
It also has a “Time Machine.” I tried a date from 1976 in a European town and it showed me the correct days weather. (I was there)
Who knew weather could be fun?
*.IO is a new country domain for Indian Ocean. But they’re available for anyone, rendering that relatively meaningless. But not cheap.
Smart phones are so much more than just phones. They are net connected, with thousands of applications available. We may balk at the cash price for some modern units. But the value? A recent application suggests most phones are capable of much more than we might think. Although it does go rather outside expected use and specs and undoubtedly voids the warranty.
NASA has launched 3 satellites run by smart phones. In fact, each made mostly from a smart phone. These “phonesats” are expected to be the cheapest satellites ever launched, using off-the-shelf products – in this case Nexus One phones running Android. Their mission – to see if smart phones can be used to successfully run a satellite in space. They’re also going to try to use the built-in cameras to take pictures of earth. And of course, they have built-in GPS. So far they’re operating normally.
They did have to add a larger battery pack and a powerful radio. The result is about 4″ square. And no – you can’t call or text them. A little out of your calling zone.
Combine this with low-cost rockets to launch and the satellite game changes completely.
An interesting debate has arisen around the way TED determines what talks they consider acceptable. While they will happily host a talk on life purpose or on a writer’s muse, they have characterized some neuroscience research as “a bunch of goofballs.” Given that this was in response to pulling 2 talks, it suggests their attitude about same. Also on their no-no list, the medicinal value of food.
Notably, Rupert Sheldrake’s pulled talk was on the Delusions of Science. As one contributor (3rd letter below) observed, “The materialist worldview is a belief system based on ten core beliefs. Many people call this worldview science. The method of science and the worldview of materialism are actually two different things.” This is where it becomes troublesome – when a scientist fails to differentiate between their beliefs and science, they introduce non-objective bias.
It was also noted by several that paradigm-busting is how science progresses. New research must meet with skepticism and be tested but some have made skepticism a trademark, another fundamentalism. Richard Dawkins has famously called himself a “militant atheist”.
The sequence to date:
After a few complaints, Sheldrake and Hancock’s TEDx talks are pulled from the main channel. Vocal objections caused them to repost the clips on the TED blog as a discussion point. However, the talks were misrepresented and TED was obliged to retract some statements.
They then pulled the TEDx branding from a West Hollywood event, who decided to go ahead anyway.
I’m also aware of another event in IA that similarly lost it’s TEDx designation for being subtitled “Consciousness and Transformation.” They also went ahead. Some of the talks sounded excellent and only one mentioned consciousness, by a Kilby award-winning physicist.
1 – On April 18, Deepak Chopra and 5 other scientists responded in an open letter. Not real well written but it made some valid points.
2 – The next day, TED responded. They fairly indicate they have to draw a line somewhere. And it’s not always clear. But their attitude and name-calling is not serving anyone.
3 – Later that day a letter from Chopra and some 15 other scientists, each contributing a segment. Some of these comments are excellent. “Censorship almost always arises from some political agenda.” “A robust science of consciousness threatens no one but dogmatists.” And so forth.
Personally, I don’t have a high regard for using drugs to induce altered states of reality. This may bring brief but typically distorted expanded perception. But it doesn’t help real development and won’t give reliable insight. And it can cause serious after-effects. From people I’ve talked to that have done it, it pollutes the finer nervous system. As such I’m not a fan of Hancock. But does the talk deserve “semi-censorship?” Debate certainly.
On the other hand, I’ve read some of Sheldrake’s work and heard a talk he gave on how laws of nature evolve. As the contributors comment, some of his work is excellent research. Some of his books are used as university textbooks. But his talk did directly but gently confront science vs worldview.
Another question I’ve not noticed raised. TED suggested they can’t vet all the videos from TEDx events but I have to wonder how they determine what they do post. Their YouTube channel currently has 1,375 videos. Given there has been thousands of TEDx events, that is but a fraction. Chopra notes that Dawkins talk is posted but his rebuttal is not.
When I was getting my grad degree, we spent a little time exploring the difference between science, pseudo-science, and proto-science. The last uses the scientific method to explore new paradigms but is not yet established as a science. Pseudo, on the other hand, talks science but does not use proper methodology. Thus calling another scientists work pseudo-science is high insult. I would suggest proto-science is where Sheldrake and other contributors are working, especially around subjects like consciousness. Some people seem to be forgetting that.
Times change. When XP launched many years ago, it wasn’t much of an issue if people stayed with Windows 98 or DOS for a while. But now, in the Internet age, your computer needs regular updates to keep it secure while surfing. XP is web-connected, from right inside the operating system. (as the old IE debate illustrated)
Microsoft extended support for XP but that’s ending in a year (April 2014). However, between 30 and 40% of computers are still running the increasingly insecure XP. Many of those computers may not support the latest operating systems. Thus the only solution is a new computer.
Those who put this off are now typically facing a jump to Windows 8 and a totally different interface. It could be argued it’s as big a change as from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. And it rather sucks on a non-touch interface, though you can install third-party programs that restore the Start menu. The issue is particularly large for businesses still on XP. Evidently 64% have not completed a migration to Win7. The expense, training and loss of productivity are large obstacles. Not to mention software upgrade costs, old custom software, and the economy. But staying with XP is unsafe and will potentially create even larger problems. XP on the net will be like wearing a kick-me sign.
The issue for many is that XP does what they need. Email, Word, and web. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. My friends scenario should illustrate the problem though. He has a PowerPC G4 Mac. Until recently, it did everything he needed. But gradually, it all stopped being supported. No system updates. Then browsers, Flash and Acrobat stopped updating. Sites like webmail are gradually changing with features that don’t work on the old browsers. He has trouble even logging in to email now.
The big difference though is it’s a Mac. There are far fewer Mac viruses. XP is on a PC and there are thousands of viruses seeking it out. When it stops being updated, it becomes a sitting duck.
Another example comes to mind. I used to have an old NT server I used for monitoring the other servers and making sure everything was up and fine. Without being aware of it, it’s AV stopped updating as it was no longer supported. (they didn’t bother notifying us) The server got infected. I quickly cleaned out the infection but it was infected again in 10 minutes. It had to be updated to a new, supported operating system or taken off-line.
This is what XP users face. Personally, I’d find a supplier who can still build Windows 7 machines and pro-actively make the migration, like a friend did last week. For old software that is not cost-effective to upgrade, seek out free versions. Or you can use that old XP licence: install XP in free Oracle Virtualbox, then install those apps in XP. The app will run in XP in a window in your current OS. Of course, we’re talking local apps. Web-connected software will remain an issue in XP.
There’s a new botnet that is infecting WordPress-based blogs and web sites and then using them to infect others. The botnet can then be used to attack other web sites in denial of service attacks, etc. Because web servers are always up, it’s superior to virus-infected home PC’s.
Think it’s minor? Over 90,000 IP’s are already involved. Evidently, symptoms of an infection include slow performance and the inability to log into the WordPress account. They may also go off-line for a short time.
WordPress itself is not to blame. As with webmail accounts being hijacked, the issue is poor passwords. Apparently its still common to use “admin” or other simple passwords. Brute force password-trial attacks can discover easy passwords in seconds. You need a strong site admin password for your web site – even if it’s not WP based. Do you want to be infecting visiting customers? Or have their AV block them from your site? Friends have had these problems.
Hopefully, server-based anti-virus will be developed to reduce the issue. Some web hosts don’t provide web site anti-virus though. That’s how the virus problem spread in the first place.
Even if you don’t care about your own site, please do others the courtesy of not becoming a vector to attack them.
I talked about good password techniques here
Awhile back, I wrote about a TED talk that framed “Earth” as a dark ages term. That we lived on an ocean planet and there’s far more life in the water than on land. How land is a 2D flatland while the ocean is 3D.
It was a cool talk. Similar references have more actively suggested a name change for the planet. From space, we are indeed a blue planet. However, we’re still talking surface appearances. Under all that water is more earth. And there remains more earth than water. But that’s just the crust, like the skin of an apple. Even deeper is the mantle made of viscous rock. The earth’s crust is just the solidified surface of that. The mantle makes up 84% of the earth’s volume. Would it be a better representation?
And then there’s Lovelock’s Gaia theory that shows that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating, complex system that contributes to maintaining the conditions for life on the planet. Our oxygen-rich atmosphere is one example. The name Gaia is Greek, from the goddess or personification of the earth as the mother of all.
Perhaps that’s the best idea of all. Gaia recognizes the earth as a whole interdependent system that supports life. A useful reminder for all of us.